Responsible management of social experiments

Research

In this contribution to the second Springer Volume on Responsible Innovation, Zoë Robaey and I assume that the introduction of new technologies takes the form of social experiments and ask how such experiments can be managed responsibly. While social experimentation in itself is not an entirely new phenomenon, modern societies are increasingly describing themselves as experimental societies. Uncertainty and ignorance are seen as problems of modernity to which a continuous learning approach provides the solution. From an ethical perspective, social experimentation poses entirely new challenges, inter alia because outcomes often cannot be anticipated beforehand but have an immediate impact on society. We identify six values behind morally responsible social experimentation and set them against existing policy approaches dealing with the uncertainties involved in introducing new technologies into societies. We draw conclusions on how current policy approaches could better manage the introduction of new technologies in a responsible manner, emphasizing a lack in the value of justice.

Robaey, Zoë, and Arno Simons. 2015. “Responsible Management of Social Experiments: Challenges for Policymaking.” in Responsible Innovation Volume 2: Concepts, Approaches, Applications, edited by Bert-Jaap Koops, Jeroen van den Hoven, Henny Romijn, Tsjalling Swierstra, and Ilse Oosterlaken. Dordrecht: Springer.

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